Some time ago, before she left for London, daughter A learnt how to make sourdough bread. So excited was she about the loaves she was making, she shared her new-found skills with me. I have to admit that at first I was sceptical that I would be able to produce a decent loaf and the thought of keeping the sourdough starter alive was daunting to say the least. However, it only took one loaf for me to become hooked.
This bread has a beautiful soft crumb, it has just the right amount of crunch in the crust and a lovely flavour. It is made with a mixture of wholemeal spelt and strong white bakers flour. The method of making this bread is very easy and can be fitted effortlessly into one's life.
I am even making sourdough fruit loaves. These beat the pants off any shop bought fruit loaf and a slice has become a regular addition to morning coffees.
I was very happy making a couple of loaves a week in bread tins until A suggested that we do an artisan bread making course together. Actually she was planning to do this with a girlfriend but, sadly for her girlfriend and luckily for me, she was sick on the scheduled day and I took her place. I came home with all the tools needed to become an artisan breadmaker. I am still working on the skills needed before I can call myself a true artisan, but the kit looks impressive.
This is the dough I made in class happily rising in its banneton.
And here it is after it came out of the oven. Not bad, but not what I was hoping to achieve. This loaf, by the way, is made with Khorasan flour and contains chia seeds. Khorasan is an ancient grain, even older than spelt and has a wonderful buttery flavour. It makes a delicious loaf.
So now I am chasing the holy grail of artisan bread making. It has to look good as well as taste fantastic. Despite the ugly appearance of this loaf, it did taste good. But that's a fail.
This loaf didn't do it for me either. Again it tasted good, but it reminds me of a fat little penguin sitting on the bench.
Another Khorasan and chia loaf, but I just can't get the top of the loaf to look good. I slash a triangle into the dough before it goes into the oven and it is supposed to open up and look amazing.
This doesn't look amazing. One side opened up but the other side remained stubbornly closed.
Obviously I haven't got the slashing technique quite right. So I decided to do straight slashes instead of a triangle and I am liking the results.
If I had not seen what our teacher produced in class, I would have been thrilled with this loaf.
Then I saw a picture in a magazine of a very good looking loaf which had been slashed in a completely different way and which made my straight slashes look a bit boring. I decided to try it.
Am I there yet?
I don't know what a true artisan baker would make of my efforts, but I have to say I am rather pleased with this loaf. Have I reached the holy grail - you be the judge.